Outhouse Decorating Ideas

Updated February 21, 2017

An outhouse is a shack in the woods--or the backyard--with a wooden seat over a hole in the ground. Before the widespread use of the indoor bathroom, outhouses were the family privy, and they are still used for summer campsites and in some rural areas. Treated as a design challenge, an outhouse is sometimes quite comfortable and charming. And some city slickers or nostalgia buffs go so far as to recreate outhouse ambience indoors.

The Real Deal

For your summer place, an authentic outhouse is just the thing for a little privacy in the peaceful woods. A touch of whimsy is the perfect inspiration for outhouse decor Plant hollyhocks around the walls of the outhouse. They grow enormously tall, and their flowers are equally large and showy---a reason why they were used to disguise the utilitarian nature of outdoor privies in the past. Hang bunches of fragrant dried herbs tied with twine inside. Wallpaper the interior with sheets of vintage newspaper reproductions for something enjoyable to read. Split the door into a Dutch door. Hinge the top part to fold back and hook open outside the facility, and make a framed, hinged screen to hook closed inside. Attach thin curtain rods to the top and bottom of the screen frame, and slide a burlap-sack curtain over the rods.

The Elegant Outhouse

Paint your wooden outhouse white or pastel lavender, cornflower or rose with white gingerbread trim. Frame some thoughtful poetry or a postcard of Rodin's "Thinker" to hang on one wall, and hang a gilded flea market mirror on the other wall. Put magazines and a few paperbacks in a pretty wicker basket in one corner. Set small jars of scented lotions and hand sanitisers on a shelf covered in flowered wallpaper. Hang a white-painted chandelier from the ceiling---if the ceiling is low ensure to hang it where no one can smack into it---and run an outdoor power cord from the house to provide light to outhouse occupants. Cover screened window openings with lace curtains ,and plant the border of a white gravel path leading up to the door with daisies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, petunias and impatiens.

The Indoor Outhouse

If your sense of humour encompasses designing your home bathroom as an outhouse, you have lots of company. There are outhouse-themed bathroom accessories like soap dishes, shower curtains, and bath mats widely available in stores and online. But for an original decor, use them sparingly and invent your own design. Consider stone pavers or painted wood flooring, and definitely get a wooden toilet seat. Strictly speaking, an outhouse would not include a tub or sink, so make yours vintage---an old pedestal-style sink and a clawfoot enamelled tub seem like yesteryear. Dark wood panelling on the walls is probably too claustrophobic, so substitute painted beadboard on lower walls and a colorwashed tobacco or dove-grey for upper walls. Use a wooden bucket for a wastebasket, tobacco or toast-coloured towels and a pendant lamp or wall sconces that look like lanterns. A few tin signs on the walls, like Journey's End or No Fishing, will put guests in the right frame of mind. Paint a crescent moon in the middle of the door.

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About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .